After three straight seasons of being in the bottom three of league attendance, the city of Abbotsford decided to stop the bleeding and terminate their contract with the Heat. The franchise quickly found a new home in Glens Falls, a small city with a population of about 14,700 in eastern New York state.
Glens Falls was home to the Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL affiliate, for the past five seasons. The Phantoms are moving to Allentown, PA at the start of next season.
Putting the Flames' affiliate in Abbotsford was an odd decision. On the positive side, it's right by Calgary, so prospect recalls were easy and fast.
On the negative side, they never got a lot of attendance, partially because putting the Flames' prospects and branding them after the Flames when you're in the Canucks' territory is... odd, to say the least.
There's also the fact that literally nobody else was near them.
Despite rumours of creating an AHL Pacific Division, which would have seriously cut down on travel time, it was far too late for the Heat.
This is a good thing, though. Flying from Glens Falls to Calgary takes an extra three hours than flying from Abbotsford did, but that's a small price to pay when it means your farm team is going to have significantly less travel time, which means significantly more practice time. When you have a team established for the entire purpose of developing players and prospects, it's a much better use of time to have them actually develop their hockey skills rather than riding on a bus.
@DarrenWHaynes As well, team only spent something around 13 nights on the road. Think of the increased practice time and being less tired.— Randy Sportak (@SUNRandySportak) May 5, 2014
The teams in Abbotsford's division this season included the Charlotte Checkers (about 4,700 km away), the Oklahoma City Barons (about 3,350 km away), the San Antonio Rampage (about 3,650 km away), and the Texas Stars (about 3,600 km away).
Last season, the Heat were in a division with the Hamilton Bulldogs (about 4,300 km away), the Lake Erie Monsters (about 4,050 km away), the Rochester Americans (about 4,500 km away), and the Toronto Marlies (about 4,350 km away).
In contrast, the teams in Adirondack's division included the Albany Devils (about 85 km away), the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (about 300 km away), the Hartford Wolf Pack (about 250 km away), and the Springfield Falcons (about 200 km away).
The Heat's longest road trip last season included seven straight away games, followed by two six-game road trips and a five gamer, while the Phantoms only had one five-game road trip, and two four gamers.
Now, the divisions aren't going to remain the same, obviously, but the picture the old ones painted was clear enough: the Heat were far too isolated in their league to be productive, especially when it came to the welfare of the Flames' prospects and their hockey development.
The Abbotsford Heat never really saw a lot of success. Most of that was due to the Flames' very limited prospect pool, but part of it was likely due to the limited practice time and excessive travel. In the five seasons the Heat spent in Abbotsford, they made the playoffs three times, finished no higher than fourth in their conference, and never made it past the second round in the playoffs.
We still don't know what the Glens Falls team will be named, or what the franchise will look like. (Although branding it in Flames colours won't be as disastrous in New York as it was in B.C.) What we do know is they'll be significantly closer to their opponents, be able to spend more time at home, and be able to further their players' development.
Last season was the best Abbotsford Heat team the franchise ever saw. This season, with the addition of new prospects, even more guys who are closer to transitioning to the NHL full-time, and significantly more practice time, the Glens Falls team should be even better.